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Nicole Clarkston recently introduced me to Leena Emsley, who narrated These Dreams for her, and I had the pleasure of interviewing Leena about all things audiobook-related. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hi, Leena! Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you become an audiobook narrator?

I live in the UK, in the beautiful county of Northumberland. I come from a family of actors. My grandparents performed, my parents met on the stage and I was running around theatres from a young age. I went to drama school, but decided it was more fun as a hobby so devoted all my spare time to it and performed for many years on stages from Edinburgh to Berlin.

I gave up the stage when I had my children and have home schooled for almost 10 years. They are now teenagers and need me less, so I started to look for something I could do from home, and was drawn to find something that allowed me to indulge my old passion. I began doing voluntary audio work, took a training course for voice narrators, and signed up to ACX.

Can you describe the process of narrating a book? I know nothing about how it’s actually done, so any or all details would be fascinating to me. How do you go about differentiating between all the different characters/voices? What preparation is involved? Where do you record the book, etc.?

The first step is to read the book, know the story and get a feel for the characters. If there are particular accents required, I research the accent. In These Dreams there are several Portuguese characters. I was fortunate to have the help of Nicole’s Portuguese friend, Rita, who very kindly recorded phrases for me. She has also very kindly refrained from throwing her hands up in horror at how badly I managed to reproduce them! There is a balance between accuracy and performance. In the end, performance takes precedence, so long as I manage a flavour of the accent.

For characters with similar accents, I rely on their character differences to clue me in to their voices. Well drawn characters jump out the page. Mostly it comes down to intonation. For instance the snake Reginald (spoiler!) just has to have a languid tone, as opposed to his pompous staccato father. I do my best to differentiate between characters, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

Leena Emsley

I record in a small booth my husband made for me. It does a good job of screening me from most outside noises, though I have to stop for planes, high wind and lawn mowers! I love my little booth. It feels like I enter a new world and I get totally wrapped up in the story.

What did you like best about narrating Nicole’s books?

I love Nicole’s writing! Not a word is wasted, there is pace and drama, her characters are well drawn and you feel their emotions. I am always moved by human compassion, and my favourite moment was when Elizabeth meets Amália. It reduced me to tears and required a pause in recording!

The Earl of Matlock and Lady Catherine were the most fun to narrate. It was great to let rip with the stiff upper lip, starchy accents, and so wonderful that their vulnerabilities were brought out, too.

What are some other books you’ve narrated?

My first book with ACX was Leslie Diamond’s Particular Intentions. It was my introduction to JAFF, and as a Jane Austen fan, I was immediately attracted. I am currently working on her sequel Particular Attachments. They are both Pride and Prejudice variations, with the sequel following Georgiana’s story. I have done several books books by Regina Puckett, as well as a detective story and steam punk adventure.

Thank you so much, Leena! I really enjoyed learning more about audiobook narration, so much so that I think this year might be time for me to give them another try!

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Giveaway

Nicole is generously offering two codes for each of her audiobooks, These Dreams and London Holiday. The codes are for the U.S. and U.K. only. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, and let us know which book you’d prefer (you can enter for both, but can only win one) and whether you’d like a U.S. or U.K. code. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, January 13, 2019. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck! And a big thanks to Nicole for setting up the interview with Leena and for the very generous giveaway!

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